Community-based non-profit Growing Great Schools coordinated farmers markets at 11 West Hartford elementary schools.
By Ronni Newton
Elementary school students and their families throughout West Hartford had the opportunity to select fresh organic produce, breads, and locally-sourced goods like honey at the semi-annual farmers markets coordinated by Growing Great Schools and run by parent and student volunteers.
Nine West Hartford elementary schools held farmers markets at dismissal time on Thursday, Oct. 20, while Smith STEM and St. Thomas the Apostle School planned their markets for Friday afternoon.
Local chefs and restaurateurs who donate their time to many of the Growing Great Schools programs also volunteered at several of the farmers markets, offering freshly-made seasonal products and other prepared goods to augment the produce.
The butternut squash soup that Billy Grant, of Grants Restaurant and Restaurant Bricco, brought to Webster Hill was snapped up quickly. So were the Parker House rolls, cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, and lemon pound cake.
“I’ve been doing this for five or six years,” Grant said. “It’s so nice to see the kids spread the healthy message and enjoy eating real food, not processed food.”
Other chefs and restaurants participating in the markets included Scott Miller of DORO Restaurant Group, KC Ward of Rooster Company, Rita Neal, and Sean Brookman. Chipotle is also preparing and offering guacamole for sale at several of the markets.
“I love seeing the families and children huddled around the tables and knowing that it’s fresh food and produce they are excited about,” said Webster Hill Elementary School Principal Jeff Wallowitz. “An event that brings parents, staff, celebrity chefs, and the larger community together in positive way is beneficial a reason for celebration.”
Growing Great Schools coordinates the markets to teach students about local farm offerings and sustainable food systems. “This is the sixth year that the whole town has been doing the farmers markets,” said Executive Director Susan Kamin. The organization and the schools now have great cooperative relationships with the local farms and other suppliers, she said.
Suppliers at the district-wide markets include Oxen Hill Farm, Urth Farm, Sub-Edge Farm, George Hall Farm, High Hill Orchard, Stonewall Apiary, Hartford Baking Company, and La Petite France. The schools keep the money raised through sale of the produce and other goods, and it goes back into their health and wellness programming, Kamin said.
“The farmers’ markets help to teach children life-long lessons about healthy food and where it comes from,” Liz Isaacs, a Growing Great Schools board member and co-chair of the farm to school committee said in a news release. “Kids are often more likely to try fresh fruits and vegetables when they learn about where they come from and their benefits. And when we buy from farms in our community we support the local economy.”
Growing Great Schools also donates $600 district-wide so that items from the fall and spring farmers markets can be sent home with children of families in need.
“Part of our mission at GGS is to provide equal access to healthy food to all children in the district,” Growing Great Schools board member and farm to school committee co-chair Melissa Cyr said in the release. “Sending home free food bags with students is one of the ways we try to bridge the gap.”
Growing Great Schools will partner with Chipotle for a fundraising event on Monday, Oct. 24, in celebration of “National Food Day.” Mention the fundraiser when visiting either of the West Hartford Chipotle locations between noon and 8 p.m. and 50 percent of the cost of the total order will be donated to Growing Great Schools to support the organization’s continued efforts to work in local communities to create a culture of wellness for kids and families.
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